Planning Resources for Disney World · Trip Reports

Animal Kingdom Lodge – A Review for Families with Young Children

Breathtaking lobby at Jambo House
Breathtaking lobby at Jambo House

Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL) is a deluxe category resort located near Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  We recently had the chance to stay there for 4 nights in September and absolutely loved it!  I wanted to post a review about the resort with a focus on the needs of a family with young children such as ours, ages 2 and 3.  Please enjoy and feel free to contact me if you have any questions! 

We stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge – Kidani Village, which is the Disney Vacation Club’s (DVC) section of AKL located beside AKL’s larger Jambo House resort. They are about a 5-10 minute walk from each other or a short shuttle service apart.

MONEY SAVING TIP: If you wish to stay at at AKL but don’t want to pay deluxe prices, consider renting points from a DVC member. You can often book a reservation for 40-60% off rack rates! We made our AKL reservations through David’s Vacation Club Rentals; it’s a very reputable company to deal with and we had a great experiencing renting through them. Their customer service was very quick with answering our emails, even on weekends, and we were able to secure our reservations within 24 hours of inquiring when and where we wanted to stayed.

 

ROOMS: We had requested a room close to the lobby and got our request granted. We had a Savanna View Deluxe Studio room on the third floor right off the elevators.  We thought it might be noisy due to more traffic by the elevators but we found it to be quite peaceful and quiet in the hallways.  The room was absolutely beautiful. Some people find the rooms to be too dark but I loved it…it felt very warm and homey and well themed. We were assigned room 7300 and the only issue that we had with the room was it one floor was below one of the garbage chutes so could hear people constantly opening and closing it, which was mostly annoying when we were trying to sleep. There was also a pack n play crib in the closet if have an infant.

Disclaimer: If you stay in a DVC studio room, like we did, you will only get one bed and one pull out sofa (as featured in the picture below). Although the sofa bed is very comfort, some Guests may prefer two beds, in which case, you will want to reserve a non-DVC room over at Jambo House.

Here is a picture of what a deluxe studio room looks like that I found on the Internet. Our room was on a higher level with a balcony.
Here is a picture of what a deluxe studio room looks like that I found on the Internet. Our room was on a higher level with a balcony.

Savanna View: We were able to see giraffes and zebras from our balcony among other animals. They have a list of all of the animals in your room so the kids had fun trying to find all of the animals throughout our stay. We brought along some children’s binoculars so the kids could use them while viewing the animals. At Kidani Village, we found the animals were most visible and active in the late afternoons or after the rain came. I’ve heard from other guests that have stayed at both Kidani Village and Jambo found the animals to be more visible from their rooms at Jambo House.

Savanna View from Balcony
Savanna View from our balcony at Kidani Village in the late afternoon.
Zebras right outside of our room one late afternoon.
Zebras right outside of our room one late afternoon.

The couch is very comfy and pulls out into a double bed, which was perfect for our kids. You have extra sheets and pillows available right in the room so no need to call mousekeeping.

Here is the sofa bed pulled out with my kids already for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party - plenty of room to sleep and play on!
Here is the sofa bed pulled out with my kids already for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party – plenty of room to sleep and play on!

I found the following picture of the kitchenette we had in our studio room on the Internet (click on the image to view the source). It was very useful for washing our sippy cups. You get some paper plates, bowls and utensils, along with access to a toaster, coffee maker, dish soap, dish towel and refrigerator (which was large enough to fit a jug of milk). Note that the DVC rooms do not get daily mousekeeping services unless you pay for it. So if you have dirty diapers, you can use one of the garbage chutes accessible from the hallways.

Kitchenette in Studio
Kitchenette in Studio

MONEY SAVING TIP: If you’re planning on staying for at least a few days, you can have groceries delivered for you to your resort for a very small fee. We used Garden Grocer to stock up on snacks for the park, milk, juice, diapers and breakfast foods. We simply ordered online before our trip and filled out the online form instructing them when and where to deliver the groceries. When we checked into AKL we simply went to bell hop to pick up our food. It was incredibly easy and saved us a significant amount of money and room in our luggage bags!

POOLS: We have a pool at home and my kids never want to go in it. However, they LOVED the pools at AKL! We tried out the smaller pool at Kidani Village (which also has a great splash pad that keeps the kids entertained forever) and the larger pool at Jambo (the larger AKL resort adjacent to Kidani Village and is within a 5 minute walk or shuttle ride). They even went down the slides! I think it’s because the water was warmer than our pool in Canada; granted it was September so the weather is quite hot and humid in Orlando but I’ve been told that they keep the pools heated all year long to 82 degrees (almost 28 degrees celsius).  It also has a zero-entry, which is great for young kids to ease them into the water and let them play in the shallow end.  There are also life jackets available for young children, which my kids loved wearing because they could “swim” with Daddy in the deeper end of the pool. Towels are also readily available right by the pool so you don’t need to bring any from your hotel room or home.

Uzima pool at Jambo with zero entry - great for young kids!
Uzima pool at Jambo with zero entry – great for young kids!

At Jambo House, be sure to check out the Hakuna Matata Playground (I love the name!) if you have young children. It is just a short walking distance from the Uzima pool and our kids had a blast playing and climbing on it.

Hakuna Matata Playground at Jambo House
Hakuna Matata Playground at Jambo House

QUICK SERVICE RESTAURANT: If you’re at Jambo, you’ll want to check out The Mara, which is AKL’s only quick service restaurant and family friendly.  The downside to staying at Kidani Village is that if you want a quick bite to eat and want some decent selection, you’ll have to walk over to Jambo House to eat at The Mara.  You can check out the current menu by clicking here.

We didn’t have a chance to dine at any of the table service restaurants but we have heard only good things about Boma, Jiko and Sanaa.  We’ll try to dine at some of them next time, most likely Boma since it is a buffet and more family friendly than the other two restaurants.

Great food and atmosphere at The Mara!
Great food and atmosphere at The Mara!
Seating area at The Mara. High chairs are available.
Seating area at The Mara. High chairs are available.

MONEY SAVING TIP: If you’re a big pop drinker, you’ll want to check out Disney’s Rapid Fill Refillable Mug program. Here is a great blog on how it all works and the cost. At Kidani Village, you can get refills at the smaller gift shop in the lobby as well as by the pool.

This was the pop selection available at The Mara when we went.
This was the pop selection available at The Mara when we went.
The Mara has a good selection of snacks, juice, milk, desserts, wine and beer. A little expensive but convenient.
The Mara has a good selection of snacks (including veggies), salads, juice, milk, desserts, wine and beer. A little expensive but convenient.

Shuttle Service: Our September trip felt very crowded for a season that is supposed to be slow for Disney.  I attributed this to the fact that Disney offered a free dining promotion earlier in the summer, which may have caused more crowds than usual, but who knows.  As a result, I was very happy that we had chosen to stay at Kidani Village rather than Jambo House because the two resorts share the same shuttle service and the bus comes to Kidani first to pick up guests before heading to the larger Jambo House.  This virtually guaranteed us a seat on the bus and not having to stand like many of the Jambo House guests had to do.  I found the buses to be quick….we never had to wait more than 5-10 minutes for a bus to arrive, and Disney is testing a new system at some of the resorts (including AKL) where they have a screen installed at the shuttle station to alert guests of the buses’ arrival time in real time.

Laundry Services: If you book a one bedroom villa or larger, you will have a washer and dryer right in your room. If you’re in a studio, you will need to use the self service laundry rooms located off of the lobbies of Kidani Village of on either side of Jambo House. I used the laundry room on our 3rd day and had brought my own detergent (they have both front loading and top loading washers) or you can purchase some right there in the laundry room.  Using the machines are free.  If you prefer to stay while you’re waiting for your laundry at Kidani Village (I didn’t have a chance to check out the Jambo House laundry facilities), you could just head across the hallway to the Community Hall, which has a comfortable seating area, activities for the kids, and a homey atmosphere.

Other Activities: Besides the Community Hall mentioned above, there are other activities/services that are available at AKL that we did not get a chance to check out. These include Simba’s Club House, Jambo House Campfire, Pumbaa’s Fun and Games Arcade, jogging/walking trails,  and the animal viewing areas. At Kidani Village, I’ve heard from other guests that they really enjoyed the cultural talks in the library in the evenings from Cast Members who are from Africa.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: AKL is a beautifully themed resort that is family friendly and one we will definitely go back to.  The resort itself is far from most of the parks but extremely close to Animal Kingdom. However, getting to Magic Kingdom by bus could take up to 30 minutes. We preferred to stay at Kidani Village because of the shuttle service and smaller pool area with the splash pad, but we would highly recommend spending time at Jambo House, as there is lots to do and see there, including a better gift shop and a breathtaking lobby to relax at. We didn’t have a car but we have heard from other guests that the parking is a little more convenient at Kidani Village because there is an underground parking with elevators that are close to the rooms.  We wished Kidani Village had a quick service restaurant and that would be our only complaint about Kidani Village.

Here are some final pictures from our stay at AKL:

The Zawadi Marketplace is one of the largest resort gift shops at Disney World. It had a great selection of souvenirs, clothing and toys to take home, including unique African themed items.
The Zawadi Marketplace is one of the largest resort gift shops at Disney World. It had a great selection of souvenirs, clothing and toys to take home, including unique African themed items.
Flamingo viewing area at Jambo House near the pool.
Flamingo viewing area at Jambo House near the pool.
I thought this was so cute! Little sinks for little people at the washrooms located beside The Mara Restaurant by the change tables. They also had a stall with a smaller toilet.
I thought this was so cute! Little sinks for little people at the washrooms located beside The Mara Restaurant by the change tables. They also had a stall with a smaller toilet.

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